This Week in Lincoln County – September 18, 2018

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• The Commission, along with all of Lincoln County, mourns the passing of the Journal’s Bob Simmons. Bob has been a fixture in the newspaper business around the County since 1972 and he will be missed.
• The renovations to the Courthouse continue with the insulation work and cupola repair having been completed. Soffit repairs are underway as well as the refurbishing of the six columns from the front porch. For being almost 150 years old, the columns are in good shape and with a little professional attention, will be back in place ready to stand for decades to come. Please keep an eye on the Journal as we will be conducting an open house at the Courthouse later in the year to commemorate the County’s Bicentennial as well as to let folks get a look at the results of the renovation project. A Master Plan has been developed by our historical architectural firm to serve as a guideline for future projects. Within the next few years, there is a foundation issue where the old and new buildings meet that will need to be addressed, but the crawlspace of the old building is rumored to be home to a rather large blacksnake, which may prove to be interesting if not entertaining.
• In addition to the projects at the courthouse, the Commission has also begun discussions regarding potential capital improvement projects to other County-owned buildings. Our Project Management office maintains a list of both long and short-term projects which is reviewed annually to prioritize the needs. Capital Improvement projects are largely based on technical data, but we all know that air conditioners and other building components do not announce in advance when they are going to break down. For instance, we know that the roof top unit at the Justice Center is reaching the end of its useful life and based on the technical data needs to be replaced, but the decision to replace it this year or next is a tough one. If you push it back to 2020 and it dies in 2019, it is imperative to have a contingency plan in place to replace the unit. The Project Management office works closely with our Maintenance staff to gather as much information as possible to guide the Capital Improvement process.
• The Road and Bridge Department is looking to expand its mowing crew for next summer. Anyone looking for part-time work with flexible hours should apply. If you are looking for work before next summer, turn in your application now as there is still some time left in mowing season and there is the opportunity to become a part-time member of the snow plowing team for this winter. All opportunities have the potential for full-time employment for the right candidate.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – September 11, 2018

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• The County recently received a deposit of $97,467.95 from the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). These funds represent the close-out of Project Work sheet #1154 from the flooding that occurred in 2015. Our staff continues to work diligently with SEMA to secure the remaining reimbursements for the outstanding Project Worksheets from that disaster.
• Road evaluations will soon begin throughout the County. In the fall of each year, Road and Bridge personnel evaluate the condition of all asphalt surface roads, assigning a score of either 1, 2, or 3 based on the condition of the surface. A road with a 1 score is in good condition and will not require maintenance work in the 2019 paving season, while a score of 2 indicates that the surface is in fair condition and will likely require a maintenance seal treatment in 2019. Road surfaces with a score of 3 are in deteriorating shape, which will require maintenance work and a 1 ½”-2” asphalt overlay next year. Based on these evaluations, the asphalt budget will be crafted for the coming paving season, with the maintenance portion taking priority over all other paving expenditures. Once the funding for the maintenance is in place, any available dollars that remain unbudgeted can then be allocated toward the addition of hard surface roads to the inventory.
• Work has begun in earnest on the façade of the Courthouse at 201 Main St. in Troy. Martin General Contractors is doing the work and this week they are working on a number of tasks, including the rehab of the cupola atop the building. When you begin to remove things from a building of this age, it is important to be prepared for an occasional surprise, but the careful planning by our Project Management staff, with the assistance of a Historical Architect, should keep these surprises to a minimum.
• Road crews continue to clear areas where we have been able to obtain easements in order to widen roads and make other needed improvements. As mentioned in previous columns, please contact the Highway Department at (636)528-7112 if you would like to meet with our staff to clean up the roadsides on your property.
• The County is accepting applications for a night time Janitorial position. Interested parties should apply at the County Clerk’s Office. The Highway Department is accepting application for both full and part-time positions in various capacities at the office at 219 Highway H in Troy.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – August 28, 2018

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• As the opioid epidemic continues to destroy lives and families throughout Missouri and the rest of the country, government agencies have begun to join together in filing lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid based medications to recoup the costs that result from the crisis. The resulting costs are borne by social services, law enforcement, etc., which puts a strain on budgets that are often already tight, especially in rural areas. The Commission attorney is currently researching the possibility of participating in one of these lawsuits and any money recovered from such action would be used to bolster prevention and enforcement in an effort to combat this destructive problem.
• As a result of the cooperative efforts of our Floodplain and Project Management offices, four derelict buildings in the flood plain will be demolished this fall. This is the first step in what will hopefully become a regular activity of cleaning up badly damaged structures utilizing available grant funds. Thank you to the property owners in these four cases who have worked with County staff to get this project rolling.
• Sales tax numbers continue to climb after a slow start and were up 4.9% for August 2018 when compared to the same period last year. Year to date, 2018 is currently .1% greater than January through August last year. Gas tax revenues remain strong with an 8.1% increase for August 2018 and the overall tally exceeding 2017 by 8%.
• Bids have been opened for the replacement of the bridge on Snyder Rd. off Highway H near Troy and construction should begin later this fall. The original bridge, built in 1955, sustained significant damage during the 2015 flood. Much of the solid ground on which the bridge was constructed was washed away and has been replaced with silt. At a glance, the structure looks like it is sound, but the silt that is there now will erode away over time, leaving the abutments with inadequate support. The project will be paid for using funding through the Federal Bridge Program (BRO), resulting in no out of pocket costs to the County.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – August 21, 2018

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• Thanks to the cooperation of area landowners, the finishing touches are being applied to improvements to Creech School Rd. between South Ridge Road and Brevator Road. In addition to rerouting a portion to soften a curve, the roadside has been cleared in several locations which enabled crews to widen the roadway. These and other safety upgrades were necessary to prepare the road for paving this well-travelled route in the future. If you own property along a County road and are willing to allow the County to clean up your roadside in order to make safety improvements, call the County Highway Department at (636)528-7112 to set up an appointment with our staff to review your project. Please keep in mind that we are scheduling for 2019 and into 2020, so don’t delay if you are interested.
• Entities throughout the County are in the process of holding hearings and setting property tax rates for bills that will go out later this year. The County tax rate hearing is Tuesday, August 28, at 10 a.m. in the Commission Meeting Room in the Courthouse at 201 Main St. at which the General Revenue and Road and Bridge levies will be set. As we have discussed previously, this will be the last year that the Hospital Debt Service tax will be on your bill as the Series 2015 bonds that have been paid by this tax will be retired on April 1, 2019. Keep in mind that the Hospital Maintenance tax on the other hand will remain in place as long as Lincoln County continues to own the facility, which is currently operated by Mercy Health.
• Commuters along Hampel Rd. may have noticed that the bridge just north of the intersection with Adelhardt Rd. has received a temporary repair to the deck which should get us through the winter and into a position to make the permanent repair as planned after school lets out in spring 2019. As is the case with all roads and bridges throughout the County, we need the public’s assistance in keeping an eye on this problem area and encourage folks to call or e-mail when they see a potential problem.
• With students returning to school at the same time our construction season begins to wind down, it is more important now than ever to exercise caution when traveling. Be on the lookout for large yellow objects as construction equipment and school busses make their way throughout the County. Please be patient, especially with the bus drivers, as they are carrying a most precious cargo.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – August 14, 2018

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• The Commission recently received a Court Judgement from the Eastern District of Missouri in the case of Argonaut Great Central Insurance Company v. Lincoln County, Missouri, et al. The Court found that Argonaut has a duty to defend the County Defendants for the claims raised in the Russell Scott Faria v. Sergeant Ryan J. McCarrick, et al case.
• As we talked about last week, the budgeting process has begun, and the early focus, as it is every year, is the 911 Dispatch Center budget. Based on the recommendation of the 911 Advisory Board, letters will be sent to all agencies that use the Dispatch Center’s services outlining their respective costs for the services in 2019. All agencies will be invited to attend the September 911 Advisory Board meeting to discuss the proposed charges. It is important to note that the services are provided to each agency at cost minus a credit for a proportional share of the land line revenues. Other than the land line revenues to fund the 911 Emergency call taking, no entity, including the County, has a source of revenue specifically dedicated to the cost of dispatch and warrant processing. Offering competitive wages and keeping qualified employees remains a challenge as the greener pastures in other areas often draw away employees that we have paid to train. This has been, and will continue to be, a challenge, but the bottom line is to make the funding as equitable as possible and to not lose sight of the focus of our efforts, which is the safety of the residents.
• We have broken through the last remaining obstacles on a few bridge projects, and will soon open bids to construct a replacement bridge on Snyder Rd. and build a new bridge on Taylor School Rd. in place of an old creek crossing. The bridge on Snyder Rd. is sitting on an unstable pile of sand, and the crossing on Taylor School, as we have discussed before, is a dangerous situation that has worsened as the population in that area has increased. Both are worthwhile projects, and Snyder Rd. construction will be funded at no additional cost to the County through the Federal Bridge Program (BRO) while the Taylor School project will be 80% funded by a FEMA Hazard Mitigation grant. The end result will be two worthwhile enhancements to our system at minimal cost to the County.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – August 7, 2018

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.• Assessed valuations are in and this year the overall number for the county is $857,485,260 which represents positive growth of 3.6% from last year. While some of this growth is due to re-assessment (which means property is gaining in value which is positive), the change due to new construction accounts for over half, 51.4%, of the overall growth. Furthermore the growth attributable to new construction has increased by 27% over 2017’s numbers.
• As we have discussed in previous columns, the State of Missouri continues to lag behind in its reimbursements to counties for the housing of State prisoners. It is important to keep in mind that the board rate for reimbursement stands at $22.58 per day, per inmate which represents about ½ of what it costs Sheriff Cottle to house these prisoners. As of October 31, 2017, Lincoln County was owed $97,236.44 for prisoner boarding, and while the State has since taken steps to improve the payment of these bills, the balance due to the County has risen to $259,979.94 as of June 30, 2018. In private industry, we would turn such a “customer” over to collections and stop doing business with them. Unfortunately, in government we do not have that luxury and will continue to make the ends meet. With Sheriff Cottle and his staff, we have the right people in place to keep the operation financially stable.
• While December seems like it is a long time away, we have begun preparing for the 2019 budget. If current conditions continue through the end of the year, we plan to retire most if not all of the little short-term debt we are carrying and designate the remaining surplus to the appropriate reserve. In addition to the systematic savings plan we recently implemented with the Sheriff, the Commission will soon be expanding this philosophy to further build up reserves in General Revenue with a focus on long-term building maintenance and economic development projects. The overarching theory is to use times of strong revenues to make thorough preparations for that “rainy day” when income slows down.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 31, 2018

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• This week, Treasurer Brenda O’Brien presented the Commission with the semi-annual Treasurer’s Report which is a snapshot of the County’s financial performance during the first 6 months of 2018. Revenues at the halfway point are at 50.02% of projections, and expenditures are at 38.04%, so we are on pace to accomplish what we set out to accomplish AND put a little money back in the reserves. Of particular note is the balance in the Road and Bridge Fund. You may recall that in past articles we have discussed that a healthy reserve balance in the fund is about $1 million, but as of June 30, 2018, the reserve balance is $3,897,719.96! We will spend some of that balance down on projects before the end of the year, but we are on track to again finish the year in a strong financial position in Road and Bridge. The County as a whole is on track to have another good year financially.
• Permitting and easement acquisition activities continue on a number of projects. Of course, we have to do an Indiana bat study for the bridge project on Taylor School Rd. to make sure we aren’t upsetting any nesting habitat. The bat habitat study is just one of many regulations that we are required to adhere to in order to get a project off the ground. The creek crossing on Taylor School Rd. has been the site of a number of high water rescues, including one some years ago when a young mother was trapped in her vehicle with two small children. Once this project is complete, the dangerous crossing will be replaced with a safe, well-built bridge which will be 80% funded by a Hazard Mitigation Grant through FEMA. While there are regulations with which we have to comply that seem burdensome at times, the effort is worthwhile as the net result is a safer travel route for the taxpayers of Lincoln County.
• Speaking of regulations, our status as a 2nd Class county brings with it a number of statutory regulations regarding procurement, bid solicitation, purchases, etc. Each formal bid packet that the County prepares is crafted on the basis of these statutes along with the technical requirements for the particular product or service being solicited. In addition to submitting the bid price, the vendor must also comply with all requirements in the packet in order to be considered. Unfortunately, bids that do not meet the requirements must be rejected. A recent example is our Aggregate Sealcoat bid packet, wherein a vendor submitted a bid of $800,200 which was significantly lower than the second bid of $1,496,200. While that seems like an attractive bid on paper, the rest of the packet was missing a number of required documents, not the least of which was the McCleod Mix Design which is the “formula” that outlines the methodology they intend to use to complete the job. The low bid vendor also contacted our Project Management office and shared that they had made a calculation error by not factoring in all necessary information to submit an accurate bid. Fortunately, we discovered all of this prior to making the award, and ultimately the bid was rejected.
• That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 24, 2018

As the construction season continues, we would just like to remind everyone to exercise caution when traveling around road workers, be they City, County, or State. Believe me, these hard working men and women don’t want to impede traffic any more than you want to be impeded, but they have a job to do. Please look out when traveling in a work zone.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• This week we had the pleasure of meeting with the Hermsmeyers from the Blackmore Rd. area of Lincoln County. The conversation focused on widening and improving roads, and it was beneficial for the Commission to have an open, face-to-face dialogue in which both parties were able to clear up some misunderstandings and misconceptions. The most important takeaway from our meeting with these gentlemen is that there is a widespread belief that the County has wide road easements. We in fact do not, and if you live on a narrow winding road, it is probably because the County does not have permission from the adjoining landowners to trim the trees back and make the road a safe width. Before a road can even be considered for conversion from gravel to asphalt, it must first have drainage and safety issues addressed and meetings like we had today with the Hermsmeyers are a great first step in the process to obtain the necessary easements to do what needs to be done. County crews are working diligently to improve roads wherever we have permission, and as a Commission we are committed to supporting these efforts. If you have an opportunity to travel Creech School Rd., it is an example of the type of improvements that can be accomplished when we have landowner cooperation. A narrow, winding, poorly drained gravel road has undergone monumental changes which will ultimately lead to this road being hard surfaced. We are also preparing to undertake the same type of work on Cuivre Ford Rd. as soon as the crews can get there. Thanks again to the Hermsmeyers for a productive conversation.
• Did you know that Lincoln County is only the 13th county in the state to qualify for the Community Rating System (CRS) through the National Flood Insurance Program? Thanks to our Class 7 rating, all policy holders in unincorporated Lincoln County floodplains will see a 15% decrease in their premium for their 2018 renewal which amounts to an average savings of $123 per year. Congratulations are in order for the Floodplain Management Office for their diligent effort in making this a reality.
• Construction will soon be underway on the renovations at the Courthouse on Main St. In addition to repairing some soffit damage, the cupola will have the vinyl siding removed and will be redone with a more historically accurate material. The work will be performed by Martin General Contractors of Eolia, Missouri, and will also include repairs to the front porch columns. The front porch project has been a long time in the making as the columns and bases date back to the original building construction in 1870 and must be handled with extreme care. The project will continue through this fall, with completion expected just in time for our Bi-Centennial celebration in December.
That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 17, 2018

Economic Development is always a hot topic, particularly during periods of growth like we are currently experiencing. This week we want to hit on just a few of the “measuring sticks” used to assess performance in the development arena.
• The first measurement of economic growth that we will consider is median household income (MHI). According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERC), in 2016 Lincoln County was ranked #10 in the sate of Missouri with an MHI of $56,833, which places us above other notable counties such as Boone (Columbia), Greene (Springfield), and Franklin (Washington).
• Another method of gauging economic development success is the growth in the commercial tax base. Lincoln County hired its first full-time Economic Development Director in September 2013, and since then the value of the commercial tax base has increased from $78,895,745 in 2013 to $95,931,641 in 2017; a growth rate of 21.6%. Not a bad 5-year run, but the expectations are even higher moving forward.
• Yet another measurement of the performance of economic development efforts is capital investment and job creation. If we just focus on the 5-year period since we went “all in” on economic development and narrow our focus to only the projects that have participated in the county’s Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ), a tax incentive program that encourages new or expanded business facilities and job creation, since 2013, the numbers are still impressive. With a total Capital Investment of $37,548,370.28 and the creation of 796 jobs, the results are favorable from this perspective as well.
• To tie all of this together, let’s keep our focus on just the EEZ activity since 2013 to determine how much return the taxpayers are getting for an investment in a $150,000 annual Economic Development budget. Using the County’s average wage of $17.93/hour as determined by the State Department of Economic Development, the 796 jobs equate to an annual income of $29,686,342. This income coupled with an average annual capital investment of $7,509,674 created a grand total of $37,196,016 added to the economy in 2017.…just from the efforts relative to the EEZ. Realistically speaking, we know that no single entity or individual can lay claim to all of these results, but let’s give Larry Tucker and his staff credit for a conservative 1% of these results or income of $371,960 annually versus an annual expenditure of $150,000. Regardless of the investment, that’s not a bad return at all.
• If we were to factor in the economic benefits resulting from all of our Economic Development efforts it would be even more apparent that the County is experiencing strong growth far and above our EEZ efforts and taxpayers are truly getting “bang” for their buck through Economic Development.
• For a more in depth look into Economic Development, we encourage everyone to stop by the 3rd floor of the old Courthouse and visit with Larry Tucker and his assistant Julie Rodgers.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 10, 2018

This and all previous weekly reports are available on the County website at www.lcmo.us. Simply click on the “News” tab to catch up on what has been happening in Lincoln County from the Commission’s perspective.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• The Commission met with Sheriff Cottle and approved the first, hopefully, of many deposits pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Sheriff and the Commission. This MOU prescribes a long-term approach to bolstering the County’s financial footing through systematic deposits of surplus Federal prisoner revenues into Law Enforcement reserves, the Jail Emergency Fund, and the Retirement Investment fund. Saving for a “rainy day” is always important, especially during periods of strong revenues. Past history tells us that the economy will eventually correct itself, and through a cooperative effort with Sheriff Cottle we are prepared. The Commission’s next step is to apply this systematic savings approach to Road and Bridge revenues to maintain reserves and continue to build an investment fund which will allow the County to cooperatively work with other entities such as MODOT and local cities on cost-share projects. Until MODOT solves its funding woes, it will be increasingly important for cities and counties to work jointly on projects such as outer roads on Highway 61 and new overpasses along that corridor.
• Commercial growth continues, especially north of Troy, and residential construction is widespread at the moment. With this growth spurring the economy, job opportunities abound and our Road and Bridge Department is no exception. We are currently looking to add to our team with entry-level positions and drivers with a Class B CDL with air brakes. Call Jean at (636)528-7112 or stop by the office at 219 Highway H in Troy.
• Transitioning to 1st class county status continues to be a topic of discussion, particularly the requirement set forth in RSMo 137.556 wherein the County will transfer 25% of the Road and Bridge property tax levied within municipal limits to those municipalities for the repair of streets, bridges, sidewalks, etc. This transfer will result in a modest decrease in property tax revenue for the County; however, the net result will be positive for everyone as not only will the roads be in better shape but the local economy will also do well with construction dollars flowing back into the community through local vendors and county residents who work for our outside contractors. Overall, this situation is a win for the community.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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